Sustainable batteries

Sustainable batteries.

The manufacture of batteries is one of the major points of criticism raised about electric mobility. BMW intends to focus in future on sustainably produced battery cells.

The manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles is extremely energy-intensive and produces high CO2 polution: Electric vehicles account for up to 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the production of battery cells alone. But what if the BMW Group managed to alleviate this problem to such an extent that an electric vehicle was able to move over to the “sustainability fast lane” significantly sooner? 

This is precisely what the company is currently working on: “Sustainability plays a major role in the development of electric mobility. Our aim is to achieve a completely sustainable and closed battery cell production cycle. From the choice of materials, the structure and design of the battery cells up to near-series production and recycling,” Frank Weber stresses. He is a member of the executive board of the BMW AG, Development.

Around a year ago, BMW had already opened a special competence centre where the entire value chain of battery technology is depicted. The BMW Group now wishes to significantly broaden its know-how even further and, during the coming 20 months, will take into service a pilot facility for the production of lithium-ion battery cells. There, BMW experts wish to record and improve the entire value chain for battery cells in every detail – ranging from quality, efficiency and costs right up to sustainability. The aim is to achieve a closed ecological cycle for reusable battery cell materials. “With this new pilot facility, we are taking a further major leap forward. There, we will ensure the large-scale production of future battery cell generations,” explains Milan Nedeljković, member of the board of the BMW AG, Production.

The BMW AG intends to invest 100 million Euros in the manufacture of battery cells to the scale of a pre-series production at the new pilot facility in Parsdorf near Munich and in the setting up of the appropriate assembly lines. An area of 14,000 square metres, the equivalent of two football fields, will be available for this purpose alone. From the know-how gained both from the competence centre and the pilot facility, the BMW Group will be able to bring new generations electric vehicle batteries to series production readiness within a significantly shorter time.

However, the recycling capability of batteries used has today already become of fundamental importance to BMW, as the recycling of battery components at the end of their service life plays a decisive role in closing the cycle of reusable materials as best possible through the comprehensive reuse of resources and in guaranteeing maximum sustainability.

To this end, the BMW Group is collaborating, inter alia, with the Belgian battery material developer Umicore and the Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt. The aim of this technology consortium is the development of a complete, sustainable value chain for battery cells in Europe. Umicore will contribute towards the development of a sustainable battery in Europe, whereby innovative technologies, responsible procurement and the closing of the material cycle through recycling are key factors for success. From 2024, Northvolt will be using green electricity gained exclusively from wind and hydro power to produce battery cells for BMW at its new factory in Skellefteå, North Sweden. In this way, around ten million tons of CO2 will be saved within a period of 10 years. This is approximately the amount used each year by a city such as Munich with over a million inhabitants.